Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

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Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby Papasot » 8. May 2017, 16:15

Yesterday, a friend came to me with an old PC, asking "can you make it work, or I should recycle it". That PC doesn't seem to have hardware issues, but the hardware is nothing to write home about. Actually, far from it. Frankly speaking, it is a crappy PC for any today's, yesterday's, or anything similar, standards.
I must give emphasis on this, because the end of the story is surprising. We are not talking about a mediocre machine here. We are talking about a more-than-12-years-old box (doesn't even have SATA ports, I saw the old large IDE cables again, almost forgot they existed). What's inside? An Intel 1.8 GHz CPU (32-bit - single core, of course), a crappy on-board graphics card, 2 x 512 Mb RAM chips (BIOS says 960 Mb are available to the user), an old hard disk (38 Gb, makes quite some noise), and a DVD-reader.
The guy isn't exactly a newbie in GNU/Linux (although he said "I don't know machine language", and I eventually realized he actually meant he doesn't know how to use the command line). He was aware of a few distros, and even installed a few himself. He said the most lightweight distro he could find for this machine was XUbuntu (he tried several Ubuntu variations in the 14 and 17 version branch). Well, the so-called "most lightweight" distro was actually a disaster: dead slow on everything. Trying to open the basic menu? wait for a while. Trying to open Leafpad? be patient, it will eventually pop-up. He said the system is simply not usable, and he was right.

Given all the above, I was thinking if I should even bother with this oldie, trying to make it anything useful. However, I recalled that, 10 years ago, I tried Slackware on a machine that was very old back then, and it actually worked very well. So I said "I can try to install Salix but, frankly, don't expect much". I was also thinking that maybe some distro specifically made for old hardware would be a better choice. However those distros typically come with restrictions (very old kernels, libc, etc), and package availability is limited.
Surprisingly, the guy insisted we should try another Ubuntu derivative. I said forget about it, how much Ubuntu crap you want to try before realizing it won't work? He reluctantly agreed we should try Salix. I downloaded Salix-Live Xfce 32-bit (The live version because I knew if I tried the text-based installation he would run away). At least the DVD player on this PC worked, and we were ready to go.

The good news were apparent just by seeing Salix-Live booting and running. The system was far from being slow-responding. I installed Salix from the Live version, and after a few minutes, we had a fully working system. Granted, it won't win any benchmarks, but it IS working pretty well. Actually, it works much better than my best expectations, given the limited hardware resources. The guy wanted several multimedia players as well (including some "heavy" ones I never use myself), and also LibreOffice, Audacity, etc. I explained what exactly Sourcery is, and he installed some applications from there too. Performance using all the above was impressive, compared to what this very PC was one hour earlier, running Ubuntu. In fact, there is no comparison: it was like bringing back this old PC from the grave.

The net result is that, not only Salix literally transformed this oldie to a decent desktop PC, but also another guy found his way to Salix very quickly. I needed to explain a few things and he was ready to go. He called today to thank me and said he will also install Salix on his "main" computer (which is actually a mediocre laptop). Well, he better thank Salix developers.
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby mimosa » 8. May 2017, 16:51

What a heartwarming story 8-)
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby gapan » 8. May 2017, 19:08

Thanks for posting that. :)
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby ChuangTzu » 8. May 2017, 21:23

What a great share!

This is the best way to grow/expand anything: word of mouth and personal experience from people you/they trust.

Also, since you installed Salix you will not need to help him much admin. his computer, imagine if he did install another *buntu.... :shock: :lol:
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby djemos » 15. May 2017, 17:05

This pc with 1GB RAM it is turbo using salix :)
I use one old P4 in 1.8 GZ with 384 MB RAM. This pc is running salix-xfce as well slackel -openbox. I have a HP 710C old printer connected which i use to print with samba from all laptops existed at home. If i could find 128MB more ram (512MB) it will be even faster.
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby Papasot » 19. May 2017, 16:25

djemos wrote:This pc with 1GB RAM it is turbo using salix :)
I use one old P4 in 1.8 GZ with 384 MB RAM. This pc is running salix-xfce as well slackel -openbox. I have a HP 710C old printer connected which i use to print with samba from all laptops existed at home. If i could find 128MB more ram (512MB) it will be even faster.
Actually,
I am planning to resurrect an old Pentium 4 with 512 Mb RAM. Luckily the hard disk is big enough to install both Salix and Slackel. Full review of that machine when it's ready - stay tuned. :D
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby Papasot » 5. Jun 2017, 22:22

Update:
I just brought another old PC out of its grave, in this case a Pentium 4 with 512 Mb RAM, an old on-board GPU, and a 60 Gb hard disk. I installed both Salix 14.2.1 Xfce, and Slackel 7.0 Openbox in two different partitions. Guess what, despite the limited RAM and limited resources in general, this is still a decent PC for "everyday's use".

The system is usable for coding (Emacs, FireFox, and my favorite file manager running, compiling often, and Parole or audacious always playing). Compiling relatively large programs is way slower than my main PC, but not slow enough to call it a big deal: fully compiling a multimedia library I am developing took about 50 seconds while it only takes less than 10 seconds in my main PC, but honestly, I was surprised it performed that well (I expected it to be worse than that, and I don't do a "make clean" -> "make all" that often to experience such compiling times anyway). Other distros specifically made for old hardware usually come with very old versions of gcc and very old libs to be usable; that's not the case here, I am using gcc 5.3.0 (gcc 7.1.0 in Slackel) and recent libs; it just works.
The system lags a bit while starting a large application (like FireFox) and some frames are dropped when playing a movie, but honestly, who cares - I expected that anyway.

In any case, the fact this oldie is still a decent PC running Salix/Slackel is a pleasant surprise. Running a bloated, systemd-infected OS, like the popular Ubuntu crap is just out of question.
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby Bird » 8. Jun 2017, 13:25

Even older computers can be brought back on the desk. My Salix computer is from 1999, equipped with a P3 on 600 MHz. With a machine that old, you feel a difference in performance between the new Salix versions. Salix 14.1 Xfce runs well, while the 14.2 is too big. Despite not having the ultra-up-to-date software, you can still browse through the internet with it. Midori is a small browser, which unfortunatly crashes a lot on old processors. But it only happens on bad designed websites, which are in a minority. To watch online videos, you need to download them first on your hard disk, instead of streaming them. It takes some time, but it works! The whole computer is a bit slower than most users would be used to. Must be like driving an oldtimer: you don't do it for comfort or fuel consumption.

What crowns Salix in comparison to Windows 98 (another still usable system) for example is the better driver availability. You can use modern plug-and-play devices like scanners, cameras and external hard drivers directly at the USB-1.0 ports of a computer, which was build in the second millennium. As noted above, things take some time.

Salix needs much less graphical ressources than the Ubuntu distributions. You can make the soft drwan edges sharp and crystal clear! That's why it works so fine on older computers.
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Re: Don't throw away your old PC - a success story.

Postby filip » 18. Jun 2017, 21:14

The oldest thing I have is an Athlon XP @2GHz, 768MB RAM & Radeon 9600PRO.
Though it's currently waiting for a new PSU and besides issues with browsers due to lack of SSE2 instruction set, it runs Salix 14.1 like a champ.

It's also perfect for coders. No better way of squeezing every bit of speed then hunting performance regressions on something that old. :mrgreen:

Bird wrote:Despite not having the ultra-up-to-date software, you can still browse through the internet with it. Midori is a small browser, which unfortunatly crashes a lot on old processors. But it only happens on bad designed websites, which are in a minority.


That's the issue with WebKit engine used by Midori and couple of other browsers, because it's JIT compiler uses/generates SSE2 code causing crashes on CPU's not having SSE2 instructions ( segfault/illegal instruction is the usual error ).

While WebKit v1 can be compiled not to use SSE2, it takes a *lot* of time on older machines ( ~8 hours for qtwebkit, GTK version takes even longer ).
As for WK2, AFAIK there's unfortunately no workaround.

At the moment the easiest way around that issue is to use Pale Moon compiled without SSE2. See: https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?t=13530

Bird wrote:To watch online videos, you need to download them first on your hard disk, instead of streaming them. It takes some time, but it works!


You didn't mention which GPU you have in that machine, but I'd recommend you to try SMTube + VLC.
With correct VDPAU/VA-API & VLC setup, I could stream 1080p from YT on Athlon I've mention above. ;) :)

Bird wrote:The whole computer is a bit slower than most users would be used to.


It's usually the slow HDD being the largest contributor to that and not the CPU, odly enough...
A while ago me and friend played with his Sempron64 box, and replacing the old IDE hdd with a new 500GB SATA drive made a much more obvious difference then overclocking the CPU from 1.8 to 2.3GHz.

Bird wrote:Salix needs much less graphical ressources than the Ubuntu distributions. You can make the soft drwan edges sharp and crystal clear! That's why it works so fine on older computers.


+1 :)

EDIT:

I forgot to mention zram. The darn thing is a life saver on PC's with low amount of RAM.
I'm using this init script for both Debian and Salix:
https://gitlab.com/snippets/1665310
Just save it in /etc/rc.d as "rc.zram" and do the usual "sudo service start zram". It will create as many swap devices as there are CPU's/cores and with the max combined size of 45% of RAM ( which is the reasonable limit, going above 50% may cause problems ) ;) :)
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